Kameelah Janan Rasheed is a multidisciplinary, New York-based artist working in immersive text-based installations, large-scale public works, publications, collages, and audio recordings. Rasheed’s art explores memory, ritual, discursive regimes, historiography, and archiving through the use of historical fragments and residue.
‘And Black?’ is an new edition by Kameelah Janan Rasheed evolving from two of her earlier works: ‘Nomenclature’ (2016), exhibited at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; and ‘Punctuated Blackness’ (2013), exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem. ‘And Black?’ utilizes the mechanism and language of the Xerox machine to physically and conceptually engage Rasheed’s interest in the aesthetics of unstable, illegible, and abstracted text. Moreover, ‘And Black?’ highlights casual reproduction, the labor of repetition, and the politics of chance in the art making process.
This edition falls under the umbrella of a larger research endeavor Rasheed has undertaken over the past two years titled ‘Nomenclature’ This project is a visual representation of racial nomenclature in an effort to document attempts to self-identify in Black communities from the early 1900s through present day. At the crux of this exploration is a letter published in 1928 by author and Pan-Africanist intellectual W. E. B.
Du Bois, then-editor of the NAACP’s The Crisis magazine, in response to a question posed by a high school student. The students wondered why the publication chose to “designate, and segregate us as Negroes, and not as Americans.” Rasheed continues this conversation in the 21st Century, suggesting the language of taxonomies and its role in race relations in the US is anything but resolved.
Similarly, Kameelah’s earlier work, ‘Punctuated Blackness’ lists the word “black” followed by a variety of punctuation. Punctuation, designed to disambiguate the meaning of sentences and provide some sense of narrative stability, in this context, serves as an inquiry into the decisiveness around Black identity.